Thanks to The Daily Post for the prompt word connection.
Connections are something I’m passionate about. I enjoy the connections ideas have with one another.When I was in university, my major concentration of study was English Literature because I loved to read, write, and hear stories. Later in my studies, in my third or fourth year, I learned about ‘New Historicism’ in a Literary Criticism Course. New historist’s believe that: “what is history is textual and what is textual is history.”
When we write about history we are also writing something literary and vice versa. This is because the writer’s beliefs, or the beliefs of the regime the writer was working under, affect their work. The ideas of ‘New Historicism’ made a fascinating connection for me between my English Major and History Minor.
Many kings such as Charlemagne (768 AD) for instance, had books written about them. These books made them appear to readers and history in a certain light. Charlemagne (or Charles the Great) United Western Europe, laying the grounds for France and Germany. He also was a huge supporter of the Papacy because the Pope legitimized him as a King ordained by God. Perhaps, that is one of the most extraordinaire tactics Charlemagne takes, he makes Western Europe Christian. Charlemagne would have his writers (monks) leave out any details that might make history look back on him in a less then ideal way. But history can often be no more than stories based on a few facts, it might be more literature than historically accurate.
An example of this is the epic poem, The Song of Roland. The epic poem is French literature that takes place during Charlemagne’s reign. It is the oldest surviving work of French literature. The poem is about the Battle of Ronceveax, a historically accurate battle. Charlemagne’s army is fighting the Muslim armies in Spain when they are tricked. The French army is annihilated, until Charlemagne arrives and defeats the Muslims. The character Roland and the French army have no qualms about bravely dying for their king. They appear noble. They are not like many of today’s anti-heros who are scared to die and do not have much in the way of fighting skills. Medieval heros were written to appear strong and divinely blessed (such as Roland) so history would look back on them in a favourable way according the values of the time, and of their Kings.
Another connection to history and literature is philosophy — which was almost was my second minor. What the great minds of a time period were thinking, influences the historical events of the time and the way literature was written. Thomas Aquainius for example, a philosopher in the 1400’s, believed in ‘natural theology’ as a priest for the Catholic Church. Much of his work was based off of Aristotle’s works, especially Aquinius’ famous Summa Theologica.
Catholicism regards Aquinas as a Saint and a model for priesthood. He influenced religion in his time (and now) and his philosophical work on Aristotle had an effect on literature being written. Aquainus’ views such as his beliefs on ‘virtue’ effect the history of the Catholic Church in the sense that Aquinas’ beliefs were the image the Papacy liked to portray.
In the latter Middle Ages, Renaissance and beyond, Catholic clergy such as the Pope and Cardinals, held a great deal of influence, similar to that of Kings. They commanded armies and despite Catholic teachings of celibacy, had wives and families. Peasants were sold items such as ‘indulgences’ to save their ancestor from purgatory, or to help buy their own way from hell. The focus was taken off how Jesus would save you if you believed in him to what you could do to get into heaven.
Clearly, history was deviating from what Acquinas taught and wrote. In this case what was written in literature was philosophical, but not the actual history occurring. I’m sure at the time, the Papacy would have argued that what they were doing was perfectly in line with Aquanius and the teachings of the Catholicism. This is why in part, a Reformation in religion occurrs in the 1600’s.
For the most part, I found my studies of philosophy, history, and literature to be connected. For many events, history is not what we think it is. Actual history is influenced by opinion and thought – our philosophies and beliefs. History to a large degree can be made-up or embellished and is more so literature than a sound historical account. But literature can have sound philosophical beliefs behind it. This is a fascinating and complex way to look at how ideas connect with what occurs in our lives, what we write, and what we believe.
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